Buried in the response to a reporter’s question about the deaths of four Special Forces soldiers in Niger, President Trump made a startling admission which has not received the attention it warrants.
First, when asked if he had specifically signed off on the disastrous mission, Trump, as usual, attempted to deflect blame to “my generals.” He stated that this type of action was within the military’s decision-making authority and did not require his approval. As expected, this statement generated significant criticism as it echoed Trump’s previous evasion of responsibility for the botched Yemen raid in March which resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL. Many commentators noted that Trump’s weak leadership style compared unfavorably to Harry Truman’s unequivocal statement that “the Buck Stops Here.”
It was Trump’s next sentence that contained a surprising and disturbing nugget.
Trump indicated that even though twenty-one days had passed since the Niger disaster, his understanding of the operation remained no better than that of the general public. Trump stated, “as far as the incident that we’re talking about, I’ve been seeing it just like you’ve been seeing it.” Though he claimed to be receiving “reports,” the substance of those reports is apparently no more informative than what has been disseminated publicly on Fox News.
When Trump was first elected, there was widespread concern that an aging cable news addict and reluctant reader would not be sufficiently knowledgeable to handle the national security duties required of a U.S. President. Some hoped that once in office, given the extensive resources at his disposal, Trump would learn enough on the job to form more sophisticated opinions than a drunk uncle at Thanksgiving dinner.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case. The deadly seriousness of the Presidential Daily Briefing now supplanted by the idiotic banter of Fox & Friends. Trump’s lack of knowledge of military activities raises the question of whether the military is intentionally failing to brief Trump because it does not trust him with sensitive information, or whether he merely is too detached and lazy to extract anything useful from the briefings he does receive.
Whatever the cause, it is a shocking and unprecedented abdication of the President’s duty to oversee and control the military.